The earthquake in Haiti, the plight of women in Kenya, the orphans in Peru, the rise of cancer rates, the hungry child in your neighborhood, the homeless person on the street.
It seems that no matter where you look these days, whether it's in the news or right in your own backyard, people everywhere need help. Are you willing to see what's around you and make a positive change in the world? Unfortunately, many people are not.
"Those things are too depressing to think about," "I can't deal with other people's misery; I have my own," and "It's not my problem" are common sentiments from those who are unwilling to help. These people see only the sadness of the situation rather than the wonderful gifts that come from helping someone in need. The fact is that when you turn the situation around and see it from a different perspective, you can experience the joy in helping and easing someone else's suffering.
It's Better to Give...
Those who give of themselves to help others -- to help even those who are suffering from extreme poverty and disease -- all say the same thing: "I'm seeing how much help I'm giving, and that makes all the difference."
In other words, when you actually see how your efforts give someone clothes or food, teach them skills like reading and writing, or simply enable them to smile for the first time, you know all your efforts are worth it. You're making the world a better place, and that trumps the feeling of "This is so depressing."
Also, it's important to realize that life is a journey, and everyone is where they are supposed to be. People in underdeveloped countries do have many positives, despite their circumstances. For example, when orphans in Peru were asked, "Do you think God is fair putting you here?" they unanimously said, "Yes, God is fair." When questioned further, they said such things as, "If I weren't born here I wouldn't have met my best friend," or "I wouldn't have had that wonderful teacher."
As privileged Americans, we look at their situation and think, "Oh, those poor children."
But those "poor children" don't see it that way. After all, that's the only life they know, so they find the blessings in their situation.
And it's not just the children who have such an outlook. Many adults in these impoverished places believe God put them in their circumstances because they are the chosen ones. They believe they're going to go to heaven when they die and live a better life in eternity. In their view, those who are blessed while on Earth are going to either suffer in eternity or they're going to have to come back to the physical realm over and over again.
What makes the situation depressing is when we put our interpretations on their life. We think that because we live in fancy homes and can buy designer items, that those who can't must be suffering. But those material things aren't important to these people. They don't know what a privileged life is like, so they can't compare their situation to that.
Find What Moves You
Giving of yourself and helping others in need does not mean you have to be the person doing the hands-on work. While it would be wonderful if everyone had the experience of personally helping someone, especially someone in an underdeveloped country, that's simply not possible. So yes, you could be the person on the frontline delivering aid, or you could be someone on the 5th or 50th line working behind the scenes. In other words, your support could be anything from donating money or goods, doing a fundraiser for a cause, writing or blogging to spread awareness of an issue, or simply reading about a situation, such as the recent earthquake in Haiti, and praying for the people there. The goal is that you don't turn a blind eye to what's going on around you and dismiss it, saying, "I can't handle reading or seeing that."
So find your own comfort level and start there. Not everyone has what it takes (financially, emotionally, or spiritually) to be on the frontline working with the sick and impoverished. However, you can be the person who organizes a food drive, the person who collects money, or the person who spreads a message. There is some level of involvement you can handle; you simply need to find it.
Finally, find a cause that's important to you. So many organizations and relief efforts need help. Go to www.volunteer.com and other volunteer sites and browse the list of possibilities. What has personally impacted your life? What makes you angry when you think about it? What makes you sad? From helping cancer survivors to battered women, from offering relief to the Haitians to the orphans in Peru, from working with the homeless to the illiterate, do what feels right to you. Walk for a cure, shave your head in support, make phone calls... do something. Remember, helping others doesn't mean you have to hop on an airplane and fly to Uganda; you can stay in your own neighborhood and make the world a better place.
Change the World, One Life at a Time
The bottom line is that we can't hide anymore. Between the Internet and 24/7 news feeds on television, we're all being bombarded with the days' happenings from around the world. And the world is in a state where each one of us has to do something, even if it's something small. Always remember that even the smallest act can help... and change the world for the better.